“Doctor Sleep” is a strange film. It exists based on two contradictory source materials: Doctor Sleep by Stephen King and “The Shining” by Stanley Kubric. The film loses itself in the reconciliation of these two antithetical works. It features several classic scenes and characters of Kubric’s work alongside anachronistic, computer-generated “steam vampires.” This dissonance is the most glaring flaw of the film.
That being said, there were excellent performances by Ewan McGregor who plays a man haunted by the trauma of his father’s alcoholism and insanity. Cliff Curtis also gives a good performance alongside McGregor, and Carl Lumbly makes a good send-off to his original Dick Hallorann character. Jacob Trembley’s scene and performance are powerful and disquieting, while Rebecca Ferguson is as goofy as her hat. Kylliegh Curran is a tad shakey at times. The Shelley Duval impersonator was worthy of a few unintended chuckles. Overall, the casting was inconsistent.
The film had a good look to it, obviously imitating Kubric’s style. The imagery surrounding the psychic battles was interesting. The villains could have been intimating, but their menace devolved as their personalities were elaborated on. The script clunked like scrap metal in burlap. Ewan McGregor did his best to make it believable and mostly succeeded. Many iconic images from “The Shining” were given a treatment worse than parody: flagrant overuse.
Well-read fans of King may enjoy this film; fans of “The Shining” will probably hate it. Fans of King who were disappointed in “The Shining” may like it. The unacquainted filmgoer will likely be confused, requiring a Wikipedia plot synopsis briefing to make sense of the media patchwork they just witnessed. The movie bobs like a cork: slightly above the waves and slightly below the waves. There are as many elements raising it as there are lowering it.